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January 27, 2010     Feather River Bulletin
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Bulletin, Progressive, Record, Reporter COMMUNITY PERSPECTIVE Wednesday, ian. 27, 2010 9B Superintendent of Education addresses state of education in 2010 WHERE I STAND pr! ..................................................................................... In JACK O'CONNELL I STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION mi ha' To begin with, I want to ex- le,a press my sincere apprecia- arc tion to the entire education im community and parents " ( around the state for prepar- m~ ing our children for their sci successful future, sci ,ficient or advanced levels ]nglishdanguage arts. n math, more than half a lion additional students re attained the same high els of achievement. These not just numbers that are .~roving. They are lives. ',alifornia students are also king steady gains in ~nce and history-social race, and we've seen a It is for your work that I am today both grateful and hope- ful. Grateful because we have made so much progress dur- ing very challenging times. Hopeful because I know we~ can build on this progress, al~ even as our challenges grow. bu So let me talk about progress st8 for a moment; the progress due wt to the collective determination ter of our students and parents, fui teachers and paraeducators, cw school administrators and wc school board members, the tot staff at the California Depart- stL ment of Education and so lio many more who contribute on off a daily basis, eft, In each of the last seven l years since our statewide th tests were completely aligned edl to our high'standards, Call- 1 fornia public school students th~ have made real gains in wi achievement. Today, half of Ed our students are proficient in Co English-language arts. Think wc about this: seven years ago pn only 35 percent of our stu- mc dents met this high bar. In arl mathematics, 46 percent of ac( California's students are now so at the proficient or above Ob levelll points above where se( we were seven years ago. thi We still have a long way de, to go, but consider that this m( means that since 2003, fed 655,826 additional California pu students have reached slight increase in our gradua- tiop rate, a decrease in our dr(~pout rate, and, yes, we are in_qrementally closing some acl~ievement gaps. 'hese are results that rays should be celebrated, : they take on particular nificance now at a time en our schools have lost s of billions of dollars in Lding. Even these painful s did not derail the hard rk of teachers, administra- s, school support staff, dents and parents. Mil- ls of students are better because of your incredible )rts. 'd like to take a moment to .nk all of California's mators for this progress. ~ow, I spent a good part of last seven years arguing :h the U.S. Department of acation, members of agress--anyone who uld listen--that this ~gress is not adequately asured or honored by the dtrary federal "static bar" ',ountability system. I am t)leased that President area and his education retary Arne Duncan get s, and are encouraging the ,elopment of true growth dels that can be used for eral accountability :poses. mother high school reform that is making a dif- ference evbryday is our focus on career technical education and our world-class stan- dards. I am also personally proud of the fact that due to a concerted effort, we have been able to increase the number of career technical education courses eligible to meet the University of California's "a through g" requirements. When I started this job seven years ago, only 289 CTE courses were "a through g" eligible. Today, I am pleased to announce that 7,650 CTE courses are now accepted for admission by the U.C. and CSU systems. Students are now being prepared for college and careers by a new approach to high school that links strong academic focus with real world, work-based learning in a wide range of fields. Linked learning is a promis- ing high school improvement approach that is helping to give many studenfs more op- tions for life after graduation. To further expand options . for students who want to pursue higher education, we have been helping most of our llth-grade students get a head start on college and university careers through California's nationally recog- nized Early Assessment Pro- gram. This has been a very successful partnership be- tween the California Depart- ment of Education and the California State University system. The Eariy Assessment Program augments our STAR testing pro~am and the re- sults let students know about additional work in math or English they should focus on during the 12th grade in order to succeed in college. I want to commend Califor- nia State University Presi- dent Charlie Reed for his vision and partnership in this effort. And I am very pleased that under the leader- ship of Chancellor Jack Scott, the California Community Colleges are piloting the Early Assessment Program, and the University of Califor- nia is also studying ways in which it can be incorporated. As all of you know, during the last four years, we have spotlighted the achievement gap as a wrong that needs to be righted in our public schools, and have set to work to do something about it. Now just a few minutes ago I was giving us all a collec- tive pat on the back for our great student progress on test scores. While all that credit is deserved, we still must ' acknowledge what we see through every lens we have to measure student achieve- ment-be it STAR test results, graduation rates, dropout rates, or high school exit exam passage rates, and that is the achievement gap that has left our students of color, poor students, our English learners and stu- dents with disabilities lagging behind their peers. We must continue to work toward the critically impor- tant end-goal of raising achievement for all students and closing the achievement gap during good times and bad. My statewide P-16 Council and the California Depart- ment of Education remain focused on finding and supporting ways the state Can close the gap. My P-16 Coun- cil gave me a detailed report with 14 specific recommenda- tions around closing the achievement gap. I am pleased to share these recommendations did not end up on a dusty shelflike so many reports full of good ideas and best of intentions. We have implemented or remain actively engaged in fulfilling each of the recommendations. Now, I have just talked about things we have done and are doing. Yet, all of this amazing work has been accomplished under the dark cloud of a state budget disas- ter that has left our schools reeling. In just the last two budget years, $18 billion was cut from our schools. The governor's current budget proposal would cut K-12 public education by another $2.4 billion, includ- ing cuts to the Class Size Reduction program, which I authored more than a decade ago. We already have seen class sizes increase across the state. School transportation and summer school programs have been canceled, and critical music, art, career technical education opportu- nities and sports programs have been either scaled back or eliminated. Thankfully, the $2.9 billion in federal stimulus funds from the Obama administra- tion threw a lifeline to our schools last year. The funds helped us avert even deeper cuts in services and person- nel, make needed repairs to facilities, and advance high- quality preschool to help Guidelines for Letters All letters must contain an address and aphond ?~urnber. We. publish only" one ]~tter"' per week, per person and only one letter per person, per month regarding the .same subject. We do not publish third-party, anonymous, or open letters. Letters must be limited to a maximum of 300 words. The ed- itor will cut any letter in excess of 300 word's.The deadline is Friday at 3 p.m. (Deadlines may change due to holidays.) Letters may be taken to any of Feather Publishing's offices, sent via fax to 283-3952, or e-mailed at mail@plumasnews.com Election or resurrection "Sticker Shock Crowd." I like that. Thank you, George Terhune (Letters, Jan. 20). It's so much catchier than "Citizens United Against Unlimited Taxing Power." I apologize that L have been unable to come up with a catchy name for taxpayers who share your viewpoint. I'm just not satisfied with "Build a New Hospital at All Costs and Don't Bother Me With the Facts Crowd." If the PDH directors would spend our tax money on a full page ad that displays the Lit bond payoff schedule instead I of promoting their excuses, Dk- the Sticker Shock Crowd's tin ranks would swell, as even wh the Hospital at All Costs mc crowd would, begin to under- oul stand that $122 per $100,000 Fir assessed value is just a tri "teaser" rate for $3.2 million the of bonds. Add another $12.1 tin:. million and, well, George, I'll tio leave the remaining calcula- of{ tion for you to do. I don't set want to spoil the surprise. If dm another $12.1 million of th~ bonds is issued, we'll be look- fin .ing back at $122 with feelings prc of nostalgia. I The bond payoff schedule me can be derived from the table sto on page 23 of the hospital's bor FY2008-09 audit report, but sus who reads that stuff except a u people like me (and Skip po~, Alexander)? Maybe the news- gro paper would publish the year- l~ by-year payoff schedule so meq people can see the ballooning tioi payments that become due af- to ! ter the first few teaser years. $50 Once the people have the a facts, the ensuing insurrec- tog tion may negate the need for opt : ~3;.~'; " - _ I LETTERS to tl e EDITOR election. "Election or In- Hey, how about tt for a catchy slogan? George. Dennis Clemens Quincy District Hospital is important piece of economic future. It to be upgraded soon. I ed for the tax. It seemed a value when I voted and 1 seems a good value. had an election; we de the right decision. I respect and trust the )ital directors. They will up for election, if they c~ )ose to run again, and peq)ple who disagree with run and perhaps be I sure hope that does happen. I ~ the opponents get their wa and the hospital dies, I'm aflaid that it would be a set ious blow to the chances of :his town succeeding and thr iving. The opponents need to :e-think their campaign ag~dnst the hospital for the go( d of the community. Mike Jackson Quincy position will change. When I counsel clients about financial matters, I mention that some.flh~/hcial decisions are sentinei events, or major life-changing deci- sions. These financial mat- ters could be buying a home, starting or selling a business, when to retire, moving else- where, etc. This issue of the hospital is a major life- changing decision for the community and we want to get it right! I believe that we have a window of opportunity to build a new hospital before inflation hits us. We cannot do it at the $50 assessed value level, but maybe at an esti- mated average of $100. That would be $23 more per 100,000 than the $77 estimated aver- age the ballot stated. I en- courage everyone to actually do the math as Mr. Terhune so poignantly suggested. We need good accurate information to make a well- thought-out and educated decision in the next year. Statements like, "We're going to be taxed like you would not like to believe," are not accurate (unless you believe our district is going to face a cataclysmic event) or helpful. We live in very difficult, complicated and challenging times. In the next few months we will be seeking your individual input, but in the meantime it would be helpful if you can take the time to send a note and let the board know your think- ing/ideas/questions either pro or against the new hos-pital project. I love this community and believe we (community) are up to the task of making the best decision. John Kimmel PDH board member Quincy Plain nasty Here's my "two cents worth" about the hospital bondsituation. Before the election, someone called me and asked if I would be willing to pay an extra $25 per year on my property taxes. I assumed they meant $25 per $100,000 value, but I said sure, it sounded reasonable. e changing n my opinion, Plumas trict Hospital's goals con- ue to be: 1) Determine at our options are in a ring landscape and seek creative alternatives 2) d out what our entire dis- :t is thinking and what y can afford. 3) Provide ely and accurate iriforma- related to all aspects he project; 4) Form a con- sus of what should be m, and 5) Amongst all t, manage a hospital, physicians and stay fitable. had hoped after the board .~ting and our pledge to p, not sell any further ds, and find this consen- that maybe there could be aity of effort/purpose and sibly find some middle and. y the recent articles and lia discussion by the peti- L leadership there appears ,e no compromise in the cap, definitely no taking eep breath or coming ~ther deciding what our ions are. I hope that Then we had the election. Then people started getting their propertY taxbills, and some of them had gone up over $100 per $100,000. This might not sound like much to some, but there are many people up here who are the working poor, or seniors living on small fixed in- comes. So it can make a big difference. Also we feel like we were lied to. Why did they tell us $25 if it wasn't true? So the petition went around and many people signed it. As I understand it will cap the increase at $50 per $100,000. But the hospital board is saying it isn't legal and they are saying they want no cap, that if the in- surance goes up maybe $500 per $100,000, that's OK with them. Also they are making threats that if they don't get what they want, the hospital and all the doctors might go away. That is just plain nasty! Hey, I'm sorry, but many of us don't have much money. We're doing the best we can, and we just can't fund an open-ended, no-limits in- crease. I am aware that there are people up here who wish all the senior and low-income people would just go away. But at this time we are here,. and we need a program that works for us too. Judith Parks-Stevens Meadow Valley Lifeline For 12 years I watched Indian Valley Health Care go down because no one could come up with the right answers, to keep the doors open. So many good people of Indian Valley tried so very hard and long to keep the doors open, but in November 2006, they closed. I wish everyone could have been there on that day. We had staff members and long term care patients crying in the halls. No one could believe that this was happen- ing. But it was, so many people out of work, so many families hurt, by what was going on. Most of us found jobs, but the community is still feeling the effects of the closure. students and their families. Of course, this is one-time federal funding and if we do not find a way in California to appropriately invest in public education, we risk having to force our schools to further reduce instructional time, pack more kids into already crowded classrooms, permanently close libraries, lay off school nurses, and eliminate school transporta- tion and sports programs, and make other draconian choices. Throughout my two terms as state superintendent, and 20 years in the Legislature, I have fought for adequate fund- ing for our schools. I have stood beside California's edu- cation community to protest as a disproportionate share of state budget cuts have fallen on our public schools. I call on the governor and the Legisla- ture to approve Senate Consti- tutional Amendment 6 by Senator Joe Simitian so Californians can pass a parcel tax with a 55 percent vote of the people! We have reached a time where the question must be put to all California citizens: 'What is the future we envision for ourselves?' Comprehensive research studies evaluating our educa- tion system have all come to the same conclusion, a con- clusion that is simple and straightforward: we need to invest in an education for every student that prepares them for success in the 21st century global economy. The federal Race to the Top competition offers us an opportunity. I was proud to See Education, page 10B i I for one have depended on and reason and not locked Plumas District Hospital for within their own narrow healthlcare since,the closer of' objectivei IVH. Please don't take that : " As Bill Coates stated, we away. Your hospital is the lifeline of your community. It means life or death in more ways than one. David Dennis Greenville need to work together to achieve the outcome that is needed tO be a viable community. Bill Wickman Quincy Not listening Who is really not listening and respecting opinions in the debate over our hospital? In my opinion, it is Mr. Alexander, Mr. Zernich and their followers. It's becoming apparent they have closed their minds to the real issue and open discussions taking place. At the last hospital board meeting, Greg Kinne in- formed the group that he was involved in the original studies and review of our ex- isting hospital that outlined the upgrade needs and state requirements. He has worked with the state offices that oversee the review and approval for hospital infra- structure. He made it clear that the $50 is not adequate to do anything but possibly retrofit our existing building This does not meet our future medical needs. The board and administra- tion have been listening, responded and want to con- tinue working with the petitioners. Is this a stalling tactic? No, it is the desire to work this problem out in a reasonable manner so our community will have the hospital that most want and need. I have talked with several people who originally signed the petition but now wish they hadn't. They have taken time to become educated on the issue and listen; it has become apparent to them that the $50 limit will not meet our needs. It will not maintain and expand the ex- cellent medical facilities that we need for the future. George Terhune made valid points in his letter, as have others. If the petitioners are really concerned about our community and medical needs, they would become engaged in a reasonable manner with the board. They would be open to discussion Gimme shelter I have been wondering why our county spent so much money on an animal shelter that is only open three days a week? How do they expect to get animals adopted like that? How come High Sierra Animal Rescue in Portola is open six days a week and us only three? As a result, they have a much better adoption rate than we do. If our shelter could be open for even only four hours on Saturdays, it would help greatly. And how long does an animal have to live in a shel- ter before we do the humane thing and put it to sleep? Maybe the few employees that work there could be a little more appreciative of us volunteers. If they were, l am sure there would be even more volunteers. I know from my own experience my efforts have not been appreci- ated. I have worked with the public for the last 20-plus years, and I know that a smile and a thank you go a. long way. People of Plumas County, if you are interested in a new addition go your family, think about a dog or cat from the shelter. Please take a look at the animals there, spend a little time getting to know them, take them for a Walk. Maybe you will find the companion you have been looking for right here in our own backyard. Linda Lee Quincy Livelihood Drivirig down a country road and observing trees loaded with ripe fruit owned by commercial orcha~'ds, it's not good form to inquire if you may just pick some of their fruit because they have plenty. And why? Because See Letters, page 10B